Blog Post

Updated: iPlayer Falls Short Of YouTube, Doesn't Need TV Licence

Surprise, surprise; advertising works. Traffic for the BBC catch-up VOD website was up 14-fold between December 3 and January 5, ranking it the UK’s 80th-placed site, Hitwise reports (via release). Duh, that’s because iPlayer got its first public marketing on Christmas Day (advert here).

More revealing is how it’s bedding down. Although it serves up long-form TV shows, on average visitors spend just nine minutes on-site, while visitors to YouTube – which offers much shorter, more snackable clips – stay there for almost 20 minutes. These stats do not include the desktop version of iPlayer but do pose an interesting question – do people really want to watch full-length TV on the web? A nine-minute visit is not enough to watch the majority of BBC programmes – apart from maybe the new 90-second 8 O’Clock news bulletin (and that doesn’t seem to be available). You can build it, but will they come?

Updated: BBC future media and technology director Ashley Highfield assures users they don’t need a TV licence to use iPlayer: “The number of homes that currently have no television licence but that do have broadband subscription, is currently estimated to be infinitesimally small. (It) is not causing our finance director sleepless nights.” And internet controller Erik Huggers writes: “Before the end of March we will have a complete overhaul with lots of exciting new features.”

Huggers continues to blog confidently and transparently, getting excited about plans in 2008 for “a complete refresh of our backend infrastructure” to “embrace dynamic content publishing, identity, social capabilities, widgetisation and proliferation of audio and video all the way up to HD quality”. He slaps down critics who question his platform neutrality in light of his long Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) tenure: “Frankly speaking, I am proud of that. Right now, my loyalties are to the BBC and the BBC alone. … My actions will speak louder than my words.”

One Response to “Updated: iPlayer Falls Short Of YouTube, Doesn't Need TV Licence”

  1. Hi there – as the author of this data, I just wanted to comment on the visit time data.

    The nature of averages (in this case a mean) can sometimes cloud the picture. The average visit time is an average of all visits, including a large number of people who are currently going onto the site after seeing it advertised or talked about just to see what it is. This is always the case with new sites like this, and as people become more confident with the content and the visitor mix shifts from new (people visiting the site for the first time to see what all the fuss is about) to returning (people going to the site to view content) visitors, so the average visit time increases. We saw this with YouTube, Facebook and many other sites

    For the iPlayer site in particular, we have seen the average visit time increase from 6:30 to 8:36 over the last month, and I would expect this trend to continue over the year.

    Here's some more analysis and charts here:

    Thanks, Robin